Spanish court withdraws arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader

Spanish Supreme Court withdraws Carles Puigdemont international arrest warrant

The fate of ousted president Carles Puigdemont, who is fighting extradition from Belgium, remains undecided.

However, today's ruling by the supreme court judge Pablo Llarena robs Mr Puigdemont and his colleagues of at least one of their gripes against Madrid.

The warrant was originally issued after Puigdemont and Antonio Comin, Lluis Puig, Meritxell Serret and Clara Ponsati travelled to Belgium in the wake of the Catalan unilateral declaration of independence on October 27.

Six other Catalan politicians who had been jailed with Junqueras since early November were released from jails near Madrid late Monday after the 100,000-euro ($118,000) bail a Supreme Court judge set for them earlier in the day was posted.

Along with Puigdemont and his ministers in Brussels, all eight are under investigation for rebellion, which can carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium after declaring his region independent from Spain in a referendum that saw voters in Catalonia vote overwhelmingly to secede from Madrid's control - although the ballot was not sanctioned by Madrid and less than half of the electorate turned out to vote.

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The five still face Spanish arrest warrants and would be arrested on their return to Spain where they would face charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds and, in Puigdemont's case, disobedience.

There is also a question that if the former leaders were returned to Spain, it could violate their human rights, under European Union law, based on political discrimination.

Catalan separatist parties that tried to break away from Spain would lose their absolute majority in regional parliament in elections later this month, an influential opinion poll showed Monday.

On Tuesday, campaigning began for the December 21 Catalan regional election that Madrid called in an attempt to resolve the crisis by installing an administration in favor of Spanish unity. Puigdement is running as the candidate for the Junts Per Catalunya party, despite his exile.

The poll, in which 3,000 people were interviewed, said just over 90% of those questioned were completely certain to vote in the elections while five percent will "probably" go.

Catalonia will hold fresh regional elections on December 21, called by the central government after it took direct control of the region. He said it remained to be seen whether his pledge to abide by Spanish law was "truthful and real".

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